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Community Chorus hosts Thanksgiving concerts

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College Community Chorus presents its annual fall concerts on the Robison Concert Hall stage at the Middlebury College Mahaney Center for the Arts this Saturday evening at 7 p.m., and again on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. A varied selection of historic and contemporary music fill the free, hour-long program entitled “A Song Arising.” Jeff Rehbach conducts and Tim Guiles accompanies the nearly 100 community and student members of the choir — among the largest choirs in the state.
The choir will present a dramatic new 2018 work, “Vida Atrevida,” by Middlebury’s Sam Guarnaccia. It sets the words of Chilean songwriter, artist, and activist Violeta Parra, originally entitled “Gracias a la vida.” In the midst of social and economic injustice — even the disappearance and death of her friends during the Pinochet regime — Parra penned the words, “Thank you, life, for giving me so much: even laughter and tears, joy and pain, that form my song, your song, the same song that is everyone’s song, my very song.”
The chorus conveys the presence and power of music through songs written by a new generation of composers. Their words convey ideas of “original harmony, sounding from all things old and all things young; music formed deep within human hearts; and the light of song that shines strong through darkness, pain, and strife.” We hear these words in “Muusika” by Estonian composer Pärt Uusberg; in “Earth Song” by Frank Ticheli; and in Dan Forrest’s sensitive setting of the poem “Alway Something Sings” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, that features Middlebury Union Middle School student Asa Baker-Rouse singing solo soprano.
The chorus likewise gives voice to tranquility, reconciliation and equality. “The Peace of Wild Things” by Jake Runestad, composed just five years ago, sets poetry by environmentalist Wendell Berry. With solo cello and viola parts played by Dieuwke Davydov and Molly Bidwell, the choir will present the Vermont premiere of Connor Koppin’s newly published setting of “I Dream A World,” in which poet Langston Hughes envisions a time when we may live together in peace and “share the bounties of the earth, whatever race you be.”
Songs of celebration and thanksgiving include “I Will Sing,” a toe-tapping gospel song by African-American composer Rosephanye Powell; “Hymn for America” by Stephen Paulus that portrays the beauty and blessings of our land; and an energetic setting by longtime Vermont resident Gwyneth Walker of a nineteenth-century hymn, “How Can I Keep from Singing.”
The program features classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s earliest and final choral works, a setting of Kyrie “Eleison,” and the final movement of his splendid Requiem. The chorus will bridge these two selections with “Illumination,” a Latin text that originates from 17th century Ireland, set by Celtic composer Michael McGlynn. Instrumentalists from the Middlebury Community Music Center, Vermont Symphony and Champlain Philharmonic Orchestra accompany the choir for these selections.
The concert will close with “A Song Arising.” Its vibrant words and music by Frank M. Martin ring out: “I will awaken the dawn, let there by singing, let there be music!”
Come hear your neighbors from Brandon, Bridport, Bristol, Cornwall, East Middlebury, Goshen, Jerusalem, Leicester, Lincoln, Middlebury, Monkton, New Haven, North Ferrisburgh, Orwell, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham, South Burlington, Vergennes, Weybridge, Moriah, N.Y., and students from Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia, Latvia, Zimbabwe, and China perform together. Saturday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 18, at 3 p.m.
Contact director Jeff Rehbach at (802) 989-7355 for more information.

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